|Didax "Class Ideas" Newsletter Archive
|This summer is flying by here at Didax. This is a busy season for us, getting ready to help you prepare for the new school year. In a few weeks, I'll be making final preparations for my daughter's return to school...that means you must be getting ready to head back, too!
Having an extra few weeks to work on the newsletter, I've been able to double its size. It's packed with ideas for getting your school year off to a great start. From ice-breaking game ideas and hints for building strong teacher-student rapport to two articles on basic math and language arts topics, I'm sure you'll find some useful ideas. Of course, there are some great Internet resources, and in honor of this being a double issue, I've got a "double" special offer for email Class Ideas subscribers. Don't miss your chance to save big!
So read on and hopefully this issue will ease the adjustment of going back to the classroom by giving you useful information. As always, if you have any comments or ideas for future newsletters, I'd love to hear from you.
Anna Mullen, Editor
| Back to School and Beyond: Teacher-Student Rapport
|Ah, the first day of school, a classroom swimming with new faces. Building a good relationship with the owners of these faces is vital for good classroom management and focused learning. Students who feel comfortable with their teachers are more likely to volunteer answers in class or ask for help. Most adults can vouch for this.
Think back to your years as an elementary and middle school student. Which teachers were your favorites or did you respect the most? They were probably the ones with whom you had a good rapport. This sounds great in theory, but is easy to lose sight of in the busy first few weeks of school. Here are some practical tips for developing strong teacher-student rapport in your classroom?not only for that all important start of school, but for the rest of the year, too.
First impressions count! On the first day of school, be as organized and well-rested as possible. This will show in your manner toward the students. You could also try wearing something special?maybe a favorite tie or piece of jewelry?to make you feel good about yourself.
Kids love mystery and intrigue. Grab the students? interest on the first day by introducing something with an air of mystery about it. For example, seat the students on the floor around an unopened suitcase full of interesting objects and have them guess what is inside and who it might belong to. You could also play some ?guess who?? style drama games or introduce a classroom mystery; for example, you could ?find? some secret letters in the classroom and share them with the students. Who knows what this secret correspondent will write next?
Relationship-building games are essential for the first semester. Make a special time during each day or week that is just for talking. Make the effort to put the students in a circle, even if it means going to another area to do this. Set clear rules, such as students speaking one at a time and no put-downs or making faces. Play games like ?Pass the Pig.? This game involves a small toy (not necessarily a pig) being passed around the circle. The person holding the toy is the only person who can speak.
Find creative ways to introduce yourself to the students. You might share some objects that are precious or significant to you or create a picture book story about your life, which you share with the students.
Show an interest in the students? lives outside the classroom. As a starting point, you could try simple questionnaires or ask the students to draw their favorite garden, bedroom, pet. Make charts showing the things that class members (and maybe even you) have in common; e.g. favorite colors, favorite animals.
Establish a classroom in which the students have a say. This includes creating rules and procedures with the help of the students, negotiating rewards and setting goals for both long- and short-term class work.
Praise students often?but only when you mean it. Be spontaneous in the way you praise.
Try to greet your students every day with a big smile; it is contagious and will soon make grumpy faces disappear.
Remind the class often of the things they do well; e.g. sharing, putting supplies away neatly.
Show disappointment, not anger, at poor behavior. Encourage students who have behaved poorly at every opportunity following an incident.
Create your own special rewards like ?Star of the Day,? ?Worker of the Week,? or ?Oscars? not only for academic brilliance, but also for other skills shown by students; e.g. drama skills, kindness to others. Everyone?s talents and skills should be recognized regularly. It also shows the students that you understand their interests and what makes them tick. The students in your class will be the envy of the school.
Take head shot photographs of each students. These can be used for ?All About Me? walls or books, or ?Who Am I?? corners.
Have a sense of humor?school should be fun! Try initiating something like ?Joke of the Day? or do something else light-hearted that fits your personality that the students associate especially with you; e.g. wear zany earrings on a Friday, bring in funny photos of your pet.
Remember to be flexible in running your classroom?what worked for the class you had last year may not work for your new class. Use a variety of teaching strategies that will motivate the students to learn; e.g. using Howard Gardner?s ?multiple intelligences? theory.
Show respect for your students? ideas and feelings. Remember to show respect for yourself too?when you say you will do something, then do it!
Do things every now and then that make the students feel extra special; e.g. allowing them to go to recess two minutes early, playing favorite games, having class parties based on the latest classroom theme, letting them play popular music during group work.
Enjoy the first few weeks of school?and getting to know your students.
| Getting Started: Quick Tips and Icebreakers
|The first few days of school can be awkward and difficult for many students, and even some teachers. These quick tips and icebreakers can really help warm up a classroom and give a jumpstart to a great year.
? Team Activity
Select small working groups within the class and seat each around a large piece of paper. Each student within the group has a different colored marker. Explain that the group is to create a character; for example, an alien, a monster, a mysterious creature, or a robot. The group has to do this without any discussion or verbal communication. Give the groups a starting and finishing signal. Only after the finishing signal can the group talk about and name their character. Each group can present a report on its character to the class.
? ?Strings? Attached
Cut strong yarn or string in different lengths and/or colors. Ensure there is a string for each student and that each string length/color has a matching pair. Hand out the strings randomly to the students. On a signal, students move around the room and find their match. Students then talk about themselves and share ideas and thoughts with their partner. Depending on the age level, set questions or topics may be discussed. Students report back to the class by introducing their partner and their interests or presenting their findings on a particular topic.
Students stand in a circle or several smaller circles, depending on the size and age level of the group. Ensure there is sufficient beanbag tossing distance between students to suit the age level. Direct the start of the game and as the beanbag is tossed around the circle, each student says his/her name. On the second beanbag toss, the student calls out his/her favorite food. On the third toss, it could be his/her pet?s name or his/her brother?s or sister?s name. Each time the beanbag passes around the circle, new information about the students is added. Topics can be varied with each game.
? Which Animal?
Make up slips of paper with animal names or pictures to suit the age level. Ensure each student will get a strip and that each animal is part of a matching pair. Randomly hand out the strips. Without speaking, each student tries to find his/her partner by making sounds that match the animal on his/her card.
? Surprise Read
Keep handy a selection of fun short stories, picture books, or poems. Read them to the students when time allows, to suit a class theme or to start a day.
? Random Selections
Write student names on craft sticks or strips of cardstock and store in a suitable container. Select names at random for various class activities where partners, cooperative learning groups, or group discussions are required, or for individual tasks, to ensure everyone gets a turn.
? Personal Bags
Allocate each student (or ask students to bring) a large paper bag or similar. Students can label and decorate the bag if they wish. Instruct each student to fill the bag with personal items for a talk about themselves. Items may include photos, toys, sports trophies, CDs, etc. To encourage students, you could share your own personal bag and talk about yourself with the class.
? Activity Corner
Create an activity corner with pencils, paper, simple games, challenge tasks, reading books and objects of interest to promote discussion or writing. Students can use it when they arrive each morning and if they finish early during the day.
| Reelin' Them In: Encouraging Students to Read
|by Kim White, Children?s Librarian
Readers are definitely made, not born. Children who enter elementary school have incredibly varied exposure to books and literature experiences. As with all aspects of education, a positive working partnership between parents and teachers generates success. Schools can promote to parents the importance of reading aloud to their children via information nights or newsletter snippets. Encourage them to continue, even when their children begin to read independently. Children who see their parents and other adults read will become readers themselves.
?Other adults? in children?s lives include teachers, so how can you play a role in encouraging children to read? Try these ideas:
? Have a wide variety of books readily available in the classroom. School fairs, secondhand shops and library book sales are great sources of quality pre-loved titles.
? Read aloud to students many times a day, from a variety of text types.
? Share oral stories, puppet stories, songs and finger plays that reinforce vocabulary development.
? Include ?Readers? Theater? in your classroom. Readers? Theater is a reading performance activity. Children retain their ?scripts? and don?t need to memorize their lines, so more emphasis can be placed on expression and character mannerisms to bring stories to life. With young children who are just beginning to read, provide ?scripts? of stories they know well and they can enjoy this experience, too. Almost any narrative that your class has enjoyed can be divided into parts and brought to life using Readers? Theater.
? Form close links with your school librarian. He/She has a wealth of knowledge about quality children?s titles, popular authors, information technology, online literature sources and new publications. Be present during at least some of your class library visits. In all subject areas, teachers are modeling values and attitudes. If you place importance on their class visit to the library, they will too. Negotiate having factual texts available for borrowing, even to younger students. They can ?dip in and out? of these high interest titles (e.g. rollerblading, basketball, cars, ballet), rather than reading from beginning to end, like a chapter book or picture book. Most of the reading we do each day as adults is factual texts (phone book, water bill, map, conference agenda, daily planner, reports, etc.); children need to experience how these texts work too. Check if older students can hold ?story sessions? for younger grades during lunch breaks.
? Encourage students to talk about the books they are reading. Perhaps have a wall for book reviews where children share their favorite story using pictures or text, depending on their writing abilities. Talk about poetry, comics, graphic texts, magazines, letters, diary entries and nonfiction.
? Encourage your students to use their local library. The public library is committed to the promotion of reading. The children?s section may host author readings to local schools, hold holiday activities, workshops, publish newsletters and booklists, host children?s websites and have a variety of material available for borrowing, free. Children?s librarians are able to recommend titles and authors for varied reading tastes, and organize visits or bulk loans for individual teachers or schools. Before the end of the school year, get the details of your local library?s summer programs and promote them to your students.
The classroom of today is indeed a busy place. Many of these strategies are already being used by teachers. These activities are worthwhile and by keeping them happening throughout the school year, they will stay an important part of classroom culture, and improve the chances of students starting?and continuing?to read.
| Getting to Know Mathematics
|by Jillian Neale
By the age of four or five, children show an uninhibited enthusiasm and curiosity. School is very enjoyable for them and they learn rapidly and with great interest as they encounter a large variety of new experiences. At first, much of their mathematics is ?doing.? They spontaneously explore situations that are mathematical in nature, such as sorting objects into different categories or fitting shapes together, and they come to their own conclusions. At this stage, their mathematical thinking is very independent. As they grow, it is important for them to continue this independence of thinking. The challenge for the teacher is to present mathematics in ways that continue to be interesting and enjoyable and so allow clear mathematical understanding to develop naturally.
The experiences of young children do not come in separate packages with ?subject? labels. Teachers therefore need to seek every opportunity for drawing mathematical experiences out of the wide range of everyday activities they plan for their students. Questioning students and asking them to explain their thought processes will challenge them in ways that will lead to the further development of independent thinking, which is the prized goal of every good mathematics program.
Almost all children enjoy working with shapes and a variety of such work will develop essential spatial visualization skills. Teachers should start a collection of different containers, such as empty tins, small cardboard boxes and plastic jugs of various shapes.
? Explore the containers informally by holding, stacking, sorting, rolling and building.
? Discuss shapes that are alike and different, using words such as empty, full, hollow, heavy, tall and long. Model the correct terminology for the students and provide lots of opportunities for them to use this language themselves.
? Make sequences using the shapes.
? Place three different shapes in a ?touch bag.? Ask the students to pick out a particular shape without looking and describe its attributes.
? Make a table display of the shapes and use it to stimulate discussion.
? Order cartons from shortest to tallest or cylinders from narrowest to widest.
? Discover the shapes found outside that match the collection, such as drainpipes, chimneys and buildings. Discuss the mathematical features of these objects.
? Make shapes from modeling clay.
? Unwrap cardboard cylinders and unfold boxes to see how they are constructed.
? Build up 3-D shapes from their component parts, asking ?Which shapes will we need to build a box like this one? How many??
? A simple but useful activity can be created by cutting out six identical saucer-sized cardboard circles (or squares, triangles, or hexagons). Cut each circle differently into three pieces. Jumble the 18 pieces and ask pairs of students to make the circles up again.
The application of mathematics over a very wide field can be discovered through measurement. Although measuring experiences arise from everyday activities, it is helpful to sometimes highlight one facet, such as time. This can help to unravel the confusion that is sometimes caused by the use of the word ?time.?
? Use simple devices such as water and sand timers and shadow sticks to gradually build an understanding of the measurement of time. Encourage comparisons by modeling comparative language.
? Sort appropriate pictures into ?day? and ?night.? Ask questions such as ?Why did you put the picture with the stars in the 'night' category??
? Student-centered events can be ordered using words such as ?morning,? ?afternoon,? ?before school? and ?after lunch.? Class books which display the concept of ordering would help to reinforce the concept of time.
? Many children?s stories feature events that occur over several hours, days, weeks, or seasons. Such stories should be fully exploited.
? Simple daily or weekly class timetables can be build up and constantly referred to. These will illustrate the regular sequence and timing of daily events.
? The growth of a class plant can be measured over time and the varying growth rate considered.
? Consideration of hours can lead to the study of various clocks and how they function.
? Draw the students? attention to the length of one minute, then longer periods of time. For example, ask students to estimate how many words they could write in one minute or how many animals they could draw in five minutes, then try it out.
? A stopwatch could time events such as putting on shoes.
Early number experiences should include opportunities for students to represent their findings in ways that make sense to them. There is no need to rush into writing equations.
? Explore ways in which numbers are used in everyday life so they can be distinguished from other symbols. Collect pictures and draw some examples.
? Develop counting skills through counting collections of objects and making collections of a given size.
? Encourage the use of numbers to order things; e.g. ?Who is fifth in line??
? Learn about money through coin recognition and ordering, as well as simple price tag matching activities in a class shop.
? Help the students discover that small numbers can be composed of other numbers; e.g. 6 can be thought of as 4 and 2 more, or 3 and 3, etc. Ask ?Can you make 6 another way??
? Work with materials to make simpler number patterns such as ?2, 4, 6?,? as well as repeating patterns such as ?2 red blocks, 1 green bead, 2 red blocks, 1 green bead.?
? Use a calculator to keep count of how many feet, windows, or tables there are in a classroom.
? Ask the students to draw a picture to represent a number story that is orally presented; e.g. ?There are four ducks on the pond and two more come to join them. How many are on the pond now?? Ask the students to explain their thinking.
?Use the ?constant? function on a calculator to extend counting in 1s, 2s, 3s, etc.
| Free Reproducible Downloads
|I'm sure you have a lot of planning to do in the coming weeks as you prepare for the start of the new school year. Since every teacher could be looking for something different, I have a treat for you this month. The link below will take you to Didax's new Free Worksheets page. There you can download free pages from over 250 unique books.
Another new feature didax.com now offers is the opportunity to browse all pages of all World Teachers Press books though our "book viewer." Simply choose a book and then click on "View All Pages." There's something there for every curriculum, so have fun looking through what's available.
| Useful Educational Internet Links
|The Internet is full of great classroom resources. Since this is planning time, I wanted to find you an assortment of useful, educational, yet fun, websites that spans school subjects. Here they are...from current science news for kids from NASA to a writing site built by kids, for kids. These cool sites can be referred back to throughout the year.
| September Newsletter Theme: International Literacy Day
|The next issue of Class Ideas will explore Literacy with articles, teaching tips and other resources. Celebrate International Literacy Day with us!